Contains some swearing – sorry mum…
Yesterday, I decided to engage in an experiment. I regularly see comments online stating that everyone lives in an echo chamber and no one considers the opinions of other people. I have been told this is why Brexit and Trump are a thing, because people like me aren’t having open and understanding debates. So I decided to strike up a conversation with a stranger about political correctness – my objective was to be non-judgemental, curious and respectful. The results were… interesting.
I found her on a page that had followed me on Twitter who were speaking out against the Women’s March. I’m not quite sure why they started following me, because I had no issue with the Women’s March – in fact, I wholly supported it and was gutted I couldn’t participate. Anyway, this one lady had posted a picture which included a lot of statements, one of which was ‘I hate political correctness’. The rest of the comments were fairly mild – I support Trump, I am not a follower, I am a leader etc, but this statement really stood out. I hate political correctness.
So I asked her why.
She came back with “Because political correctness makes pussies out (sic) everybody. Being “offended” is a choice. It can not be given, only taken”. So I clarified with her, saying “That’s really interesting. So, do you mean someone can say what they like with whatever emotion, and the only reason it’s offensive is because the person who hears it is offended by it? Like if a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound? Thank you for helping me understand that perspective.” I was polite, friendly and trying to understand, no?
“She was very angry that some people ‘on the left’ were being insulting about Donald Trump’s son, and you know what, I agreed with her.”
Curiously, she also started re-tweeting all of my comments to her. I ignored this at first, but then some of her friends started making strange comments to me. She was very angry that some people ‘on the left’ were being insulting about Donald Trump’s son, and you know what, I agreed with her. I told her that I agreed that the child had done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve anything nasty being said to him, however by her argument about political correctness, were the comments only offensive because she saw them as offensive? She strongly disagreed that the comments about Barron Trump were in the same category as a racial slur (for example), so I apologised for the misunderstanding.
I asked her why she kept retweeting me and she said it was to show my ‘irrelevance’. Now, one might argue that the fact that she was giving me traffic to my page made me relevant – one might argue that, I didn’t… To be honest, her comment made little sense to me and she might as well have said “to prove you are a pair of shoes”. Her and her pals just started laughing at me and mocking me but I let it go over my head and remained polite.
At some point, she tweeted me this little delight.
She must have deleted it as I couldn’t actually find it on Twitter, but I got a Hootsuite notification on my phone. This kind of made me feel happy, because she obviously sent it and then thought better of it, so deleted it. Even though she thinks I’m a “liberal Fucktard” she decided to be PC enough not to keep the words on Twitter. I won’t hold it against her, except for the fact that I’m sharing it here.
I continued to be pleasant and even said to her that although I didn’t necessarily agree with her I was trying to listen and understand, but I couldn’t convince her that I wasn’t trolling her, so I wished her a lovely day, and cracked on.
“To be honest, from where I was sitting it seemed like one of us threw a bit of a tantrum, I’ll let you draw your own conclusion who…”
It really got my brain working though, thinking about the very nature of communication. In this lady’s own Twitter feed she berated the people on the left for not listening and for being unapologetic. She has memes about people on the left “throwing tantrums”. I listened, I tried to understand, and I apologised when I misunderstood something she said, yet I was met with abuse and name-calling. To be honest, from where I was sitting it seemed like one of us threw a bit of a tantrum, I’ll let you draw your own conclusion who… So this leads me to believe that some people don’t actually want what they say they want. What they want is to be able to be rude, abusive and intolerant to people they disagree with, but they want to blame the other person for their own actions.
Now, I personally disagree with this lady’s perspective on political correctness – I don’t think that offence is purely down to the person receiving the message. For example, she used a certain word to describe me that was not all together friendly (which she subsequently deleted and we’re not holding against her). She meant it with aggression and anger, in a bid to make me upset. If I was angry or upset, some of that is on her, because that was the outcome she intended. If though, she had called me a ‘silly bunny’ and I had got upset, and her intention was not to upset me at all, this might be a different story, but as it is, if your intention is to belittle, insult or degrade someone else and they are impacted by this, you need to take some responsibility for that.
“The things I don’t object to mocking Donald Trump for are: his disrespectful behaviour towards others, his compulsive lying, his lack of political acumen and the fact that his policies will disadvantage millions of people across the world.”
I do agree with her about Barron Trump – I agree that it is unfair, wrong even, that a child is being publicly humiliated and a spotlight is being put on a condition he may or may not have. I think it’s unfair that people are making comments about Melania Trump’s accent – she speaks a number of languages and I bet she speaks all of them with more eloquence than I do. I even think it’s a little bit off making fun of Trump for being fat, old and possibly suffering from dementia. These are not things to mock someone about – that makes us no better than Trump himself. The things I don’t object to mocking Donald Trump for are: his disrespectful behaviour towards others, his compulsive lying, his lack of political acumen and the fact that his policies will disadvantage millions of people across the world. Sometimes these are the things we need to make light of to cope with just how worrying they are.
“What she was asking was us to approach Barron Trump with kindness, with sensitivity and (dare I say it) with political correctness.”
Where I disagree with her about Barron Trump though, is I don’t believe there is any difference between insulting a young man for a reason beyond his control and insulting someone for their race, gender, political leaning, weight, sexuality or… well, anything beyond their control. What she was asking was us to approach Barron Trump with kindness, with sensitivity and (dare I say it) with political correctness. And I’m cool with doing that, just you can’t hate political correctness then demand it 140 characters later. Embrace it and be nice to folks, or hate it and take the piss out of the kid (please don’t – just saying this for the sake of argument), but you can’t have it both ways.
One of my new friend’s Twitter mates shared an oft referred to stand up routine performed by George Carlin, where he likens political correctness to fascism. Yes, I’ve watched it, but I’ve also seen a clip where George Carlin says “Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!”
And that’s a message I’d prefer to share.